Poppies and Beavertail

Wildflowers are showing in the Warm Springs Wilderness. Wild in Arizona book, location 14, page 64. Poppies, Lupine, and Beavertail Cactus are in bloom now. Brittlebush about two weeks away. The flowers are on the north west slopes in three canyons. (see map in book) road is high clearance now, and 4×4 is a good idea. Organ Pipe is not having a good bloom yet, report back when the brittle bush starts. Buckskin and Gibraltar have a few wildflowers with Cactus coming on strong in the next few weeks.

Warm Springs Wilderness

The rains last week have given already blooming areas like the Peridot Mesa a second wind. There is also a good bladderpod carpets between Safford and Clifton. You will need to jump barbwire fences and hike to the hillsides if you want the poppies. There is a nice carpet of poppies on the south side of 70 around San Jose but will need to jump fences which I don’t suggest not knowing who owns that land.

The Black Hills Byway also has some wildflowers now and the Rockhound area off 191 is good for bladderpod.
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Photographed on February 25, 2015, the Mexican gold poppies bloom in abundance on top of Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, Arizona

If Mexican gold poppies are what you seek, then drop everything this instant and RUN – don’t walk! – to Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

Paul and I had heard substantiated rumors from a couple friends (thanks Ron and Lori!) of “fields and fields of poppies” in this location.  Based on when the flowers normally bloom here (mid-March), it seemed a little early, but the weather has been warm until recently.  I took my camera and curiosity out to Peridot Mesa yesterday.  And oh my!  The hillsides were covered with poppies!

Mainly poppies, but also some blue dicks, lupine, and budding globemallow, blanketed the basin in between Peridot Mesa and Peridot Hills.  With the cooler temperatures, the poppies began closing up quite early (about 2 hours before ‘sunset). As a couple walking the dirt road at sunset suggested, “The flowers have been sleeping [i.e., closing early] for three days in the cold.”

Arizona_Peridot Mesa_00001_cIn sampling a number of clusters, it appears there are just as many buds waiting to bloom as there are flowers in bloom.  Also, in surveying the ground, the lupine, blue dicks, globemallow, and other flowers are just starting to show.  With this in mind – even though it looks stunning now – I think this location has yet to officially peak.  Now, that said, forecasters are predicting 85-100% chance of rain in Phoenix starting Saturday and lasting through Tuesday.  A heavy rain could damage the delicate and dainty poppy blooms, but could encourage the other blooms to continue their progress.

We added Peridot Mesa to our expanded 2nd edition of our book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers.”  We are finishing the proofing process as we speak, but here’s a sneak peak of location #48: Peridot Mesa in case you wish to put it to good use immediately - please practice “Leave No Trace” principles and do not trample the flowers so that others may enjoy this beautiful site as well.

(Note: more wildflower updates after the sample)

48_Peridot Mesa_Sample

Click on photo to see the sample page full size (and save to your computer and/or print for reference).

In addition to Peridot Mesa, we are hearing consistent reports that wildflowers are showing off in Picacho Peak State Park (location #53 in 1st edition; #51 in 2nd edition).

En route to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, I noted that Silly Mountain (location #32 in 1st and 2nd editions) is staring to display some yellow on the brittlebush at higher elevations.  I’d check this spot out in a week or so.

We’ve heard things are just starting at Catalina State Park (#55/#53) and at Pipeline Canyon Trail/Lake Pleasant (#21/20) so keep an eye on those two spots in the weeks ahead via the 2015 Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam (which they did not turn on for 2014′s bloom) at azstateparks.com/RangerCam2015 and DesertUSA’s Wildflower reports at www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html.

Finally, while driving along Highway 93 last week, on Monday, I saw a healthy amount of Joshua tree blooms along the road.  On my way back through the area on Thursday afternoon, almost all the blooms had disappeared and were replaced by blackened, dead stalks.  We can’t explain the short-lasting bloom nor determine if additional blooms will appear, but from last week’s observations, the Joshua tree bloom might have happened and ended within a week’s time frame last week.

Happy wildflower hunting and shooting!

~Colleen

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With the monsoon in full swing, I took a spin through Flagstaff last Friday afternoon to check on the status of the wildflowers in a number of spots.  Sorry, I don’t have any notable photos to share (as I was racing to get home to Chandler – a mere 2.5-hour drive – after a 21-day road trip to the Pacific Northwest…), but I was eager to pass along what I saw nonetheless!

Bonito Park (Wild in Arizona book location # 7):  I spotted just a handful of sunflowers in bloom in the field, with some immature plants waiting to bud.  Although it didn’t seem like there were enough budding to create a wide spread bloom, it is a touch early in the season for this area to show.  Scattered wild geranium, yellow wall flower, and common mullein are currently adding a splash of color to the green. Arizona skyrockets are also starting to pop up on north side of street in forested area.

Along Highway 89 (near Copeland Lane specifically):  Fields of Rocky Mountain beeplant await those with a telephoto lens.  If you decide to stop to photograph in this area, though, please respect private property and fences.

Lower Lake Mary:  Swaths of calliopsis are blooming along the dry lake bed, particularly in the middle and southern sections.  Abundant budding plants along the implied shoreline indicated this spot is just getting warmed up too! I also saw a nice patch of butter and eggs in forest.

Upper Lake Mary:  Unlike Lower Lake Mary, it’s neighbor to the south is still holding water despite the warmer summer temperatures.  Like Lower Lake Mary, this area is already showcasing ribbons of calliopsis along east and west shoreline. Healthy blankets of yellow grace the Narrows nearby as well.  Stay north or far south of day use area to avoid getting swimmers in your shot.

Ashurst Lake (Wild in Arizona book location #13):  With the abundance of calliopsis on both Lake Mary’s, I had high expectations for wide spread bloom at nearby Ashurst Lake.  After enduring a more-than-normal washboardy ride along Forest Service Road 82E (which is still passable to passenger cars, just expect a massage en route), the meadows showed zippo.  Scattered water smartweed is blooming early along the lake’s southern shoreline, but the water level is a solid 5-10 feet away from the plants and I don’t know how big of a bloom these water-loving plants will do without sitting closer (in) water if the lake remains so low.

Mormon Lake (Wild in Arizona book location #12): The lake is dry, but calliopsis is abundant in the field along the southern shoreline.  A smatterings of Indian paintbrush starting to make an appearance near both formal overlooks.

Note that in the Lake Mary, Ashurst Lake, and Mormon Lake area, smoke from the Bar M fire filled the air on Friday.  Burnout activities continue, so the smoke will lessen as time passes.

In other news – and for additional guidance on some of these areas listed above - AAA Highroads magazine featured our article “Put the Petal to the Nettle:  Take a Drive on the Wildflower Side of Flagstaff” in their most recent issue (July/August 2014).  If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, visit http://highroads.az.aaa.com/magazine and click on View Full Issue.  We’re on magazine page 20-21 (digital edition page 22-23).  Enjoy!

Happy shooting!
~Colleen

 

Fish Hook Barrel Cactus bloom

Fish Hook Barrel Cactus blooms are refracted in a rain drop after the storm yesterday.

The Spring bloom is now at it’s end with a few Saguaro’s and the Barrel Cactus putting out there final flowers. TheState is starting to get some storms now. This will usher in the Monsoon bloom of Arizona Caltrop in the southern deserts and the common sunflowers up north along with the annual wildflowers across the high mountains. The Yellow Columbine’s are blooming now in Horton Creek and should be good in Workman Creek. (page 164, Wild in Arizona, Photographing Ariz

Fish Hook Barrel Cactus raindrop

A trychocereus hybrid blooms at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson last Thursday

With the somewhat unimpressive spring annual & perennial bloom essentially done in the low desert–save for the cactus blooms–wildflowers are still popping up around the state!  Here’s what we’ve seen within the last several days:

  • Another trychocereus bloom in Tohono Chul Park in Tuscon

    Tohono Chul Park:  Given the warm temperatures and lack of rain, I was quite impressed by the variety of healthy blooms in this Tucson park when I visited last Thursday.  It was a Mecca of macro opportunities!  A few poppies and owl clover are hanging on, while an abundance of yellow columbine, verbena, desert marigolds, yerba manza, and a variety of cacti blooms (including several species of night bloomers) are showing their colors.  While you won’t go wrong on any paved path (or even just in the parking lot), head to the Sonoran Seasons Garden, cactus/succulent ramada, and the Riparian Habitat for best photo ops but bring a telephoto lens (in addition to macro) as some of the blooms are tucked behind low fences.  Tohono Chul is home to the largest private collection of the famous Queen of the Night cactus, which blooms on one night sometime in May through July-sometimes with less than 12 hours notice!  The magical event – called “Bloom Night” – has yet to occur this year, but it may come early.  If you’re interested in catching this popular event, learn more and sign up for their email notification list at http://tohonochulpark.org/cereus.

  • Primrose and verbena tango in the parking lot at the Tucson Botanical Garden last Thursday

    Tucson Botanical Garden:  Although smaller in size than Tohono Chul, TBG offered a slightly different collection of flowers to photograph.  Head to the Cactus and Succulent Garden for strawberry hedgehog and a variety of night blooming cacti around the cafe.  Then visit the Wildflower Garden for primrose, blanketflower, and globemallow.

  • Saguaro National Park (West):  After observing several saguaro cacti in bloom while driving along Gates Pass Road, I popped into the Visitor Center to learn how the bloom was progressing.  The ranger suggested the saguaro bloom had just started and expected the bloom to crescendo to a peak in the next two to three weeks, which would be earlier than normal.  Best bet right now is along Hohokam Road.  Some palo verde, prickly pear cactus, and buckhorn cactus were still blooming, but certainly past peak.
  • Echinopsis hybrid bloom called “First Light” in the Tucson Botanical Garden in Tucson

    Sedona area:  Some scattered strawberry hedgehog cactus, prickly pear cactus, desert globemallow, and blackfoot daisies around the Huckaby Trailhead parking area (although little seems to be blooming along Schnebly Hill Road at this time) and at the Back-O-Beyond Trailhead.  Not much blooming in Slide Rock State Park…apple trees and myrtle bloomed in mid-March (yes, early!).

We eagerly awaiting the monsoon bloom, which typically occurs in late June through September (will it too be 1-2 months early?!).  Also, this month, NOAA officially declared an “El Nino Watch” status, which means the likelihood of an El Nino (read: wetter weather for Arizona) developing this summer or fall increased above 50%.

Happy flower hunting!

Blanketflower in Tucson Botanical Garden’s Wildflower Garden last Thursday

Lost Dutchman_01_c

Lost Dutchman looking green for this time of year. Of the limited number that did sprout flowers this year, brittle bush and other perennial shrubs have already passed their peak bloom.

Well, the year of the poppy, it ain’t.  Following ample rain in November and average precipitation in December, the Phoenix area went almost 70 days without a drop of rain during a critical time for the spring wildflower bloom in the desert.  On top of the lack of rain, the low deserts have experienced significantly higher temperatures than normal.  So 2014 isn’t going to go into the record books for our spring bloom.

With the chance of a wide-spread display diminishing each day as fast as our much needed rains did this year, shutterbugs with a careful eye can pick out single blooms to practice their macro techniques out there!  Here’s what we’ve been seeing out there…

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Healthy globe mallow from the parking lot of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum:  Ample globemallow and desert marigolds in the parking area.  Ice plants along entry walkway showing off pinks and purples while the aloe have sprouted their orange flowers.  The Demonstration Garden has some penstemon, blanket flower, and cactii in bloom, but it’s a smaller scale bloom than what we’re used to at this time of year.

Lost Dutchman:   Ocotillo and hedgehog cactus in bloom near the Saguaro Day Use area.  Brittlebush burned out.  (The ranger suggested some small flowers existed along the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail but I was leading a private workshop and wasn’t able to scout.)

San Tan Regional Mountain:  Ocotillo and a variety of cactus currently in bloom across the park.  Brittle bush past peak.

South Mountain: Specifically along the Pima Canyon & Bajada Trails, the brittle bush bloom is done while the ocotillo and hedgehog cacti are blooming now.

Gonzales Pass:  Palo verde trees showing off brilliant yellows in the median among ocotillo, globemallow, desert marigolds, and some brittle bush.

Silly Mountain:  Brittle bush not looking real promising…

Bartlett Lake:  Scattered brittle bush and globemallow hanging on, but looking pretty burned out otherwise.

Sun City area:  Thanks to the recent construction activities, a nice disturbance bloom of poppies and scorpionweed intermingling is currently happening near the intersection of the new 303 Expressway and Grand Avenue.

Let us know if you’ve seen anything great out there!

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the upcoming monsoon season (will it start early, given the shift in seasons??) will bring additional moisture to the entire state.  In addition, we’re watching the development of a possible El Nino closely.  The last Climate Prediction Center report suggested a 50% chance of an El Nino developing this summer or fall, so the verdict for this summer’s bloom is still out.  Stay tuned!

Happy shooting!

~Colleen & Paul

Aravaipa-Canyon-East

Aravaipa East is just past peak for fall color this week with one or two more weeks of “OK” color. Bonita Creek is just at peak color and the Gila Box looks to peak in a week with this cold front. Still some fall along the Gila River below San Carlos Lake. This should be the last few weeks for Arizona autumn except for some Lower Colorado River cottonwoods that last into next year.

Gila Box

Bonita Creek

 

Sycamore Canyon wilderness

It has been a strange autumn in Arizona this year with locations starting to show color early and then suffering brown outs. The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is no exception with some trees turning color while the rest are still green, brown, or a grey (when the leaves turn grey-green and just dry up and drop).

Still, the Parsons trail on the southern end of Sycamore Canyon has some color.  Most of the rim country is now past peak and the cottonwoods and sycamore are showing in the deserts.

Sycamore Canyon pool

Peak Sunflowers

The yellow carpets of calliopsis are moving up from Mormon Lake into Ashurst Lake, but still some great opportunities for elk and prairie sunflowers in the area for the next few weeks.  The prairie sunflower bloom around the San Francisco Peaks has peaked so check on the higher elevations for best blooms. Though I didn’t have time to scout, be on the look out for flowers along the Mogollon Rim and White Mountains as well.

Sunset Crater Sunflower-

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